Sunday, March 18, 2012

Regarding comments by the Republican State Chairman on my comments

I thank Republican State Chairman Monty Newman for his comments on my two columns concerning Steve Pearce. Dialogue and debate on these matters can only help all of us arrive something like the truth.

Unfortunately, he chose to ignore my basic point: that while Mr. Pearce presented himself in Las Cruces as "an environmental moderate" he was no such thing. Whether you agree with him or not, he is toward the extreme, even among members of a conservative U.S. Congress, in voting against environmental protections.
There are reasons he is consistently ranked so low by groups concerned with our environment.

Chairman Newman led off with some personal invective (taken in good spirits here), then listed some votes by Pearce (most unrelated to environmental concerns) and asked whether I found fault with them.

He cited a vote on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, and asked whether I "advocate for getting away with murdering an unborn child in killing a pregnant woman." Uhh, no. I never even thought about advocating any such thing.

Leading off with that vote illustrates our different priorities. Executing a murderer twice, or sentencing him to prison for two lifetimes instead of one, might be very satisfying; but I care more about repairing this country’s ill economy and polluted environment, getting people back to work, improving schools, making our system fairer, and the like.

He continued, "Does Mr. Goodman support partial birth abortions, or does he believe that we should remove ‘under God’ from our pledge of allegiance." Abortion deserves a separate column at some point – as an issue that provokes emotional responses and great divisiveness.

As to ‘under God," which got added to the pledge in 1954, I don’t much care. Those who like to say it or not say it should suit themselves. On balance, I’d stick with the original pledge, and the basic principle that church and state are separate. Public schools aren’t for teaching kids to believe in gods or not to believe in gods.

These are the votes Chairman Newman leads off with in trying to defend Representative Pearce. Are these the highlights of Pearce’s service in Congress? That’d be like a highlight film on a high school basketball player that shows him tying his shoes and tossing a sandwich wrapper toward a wastebasket.

The Chairman also cites votes by Representative Pearce against the stimulus and against the cap and trade bill, as if they were unquestionably right.

Well, as a U.S. citizen and a New Mexican, I’d have voted against the war with Iraq, which was based on a lie and helped get us into the economic hot water we’re in. I probably would have voted for the economic stimulus bill which, although it was watered-down in an attempt at bipartisanship, helped keep us out of either a full Depression or a worse Depression than we’re in.

Of course Chairman Newman doesn’t mention Rep. Pearce’s vote on February 17 against extending the payroll tax cut. Even when most Republicans realized the absurdity of their opposition to it, Pearce shouted "Nay!" It passed 293-132. While Rep. Pearce steadfastly opposes making billionaires like the Koch Brothers pay something closer to the tax rate any other civilized country would charge them, he says the deficit means we can’t afford to extend the tax cut for less wealthy working folk. I’m not smart enough to follow that logic.

Chairman Newman also didn’t mention Representative Pearce’s recent votes to suspend the cross-state air pollution rule, to repeal energy efficiency standards for incandescent lightbulbs, to repeal EPA emissions regulations for cement manufacturers, for the Air Quality Impact of Drilling Act (weakening the Clean Air Act), and against repeal of certain funding restrictions on the ESA. The consistently anti-environmental slant of his voting record makes it misleading for Pearce to call himself "an environmental moderate." (Again, I don’t say the oil and gas industry is always wrong, or that environmental protection advocates always right; but I do say that Representative Pearce (a) gets a bundle of money from oil and gas interests and (b) consistently votes against environmental protection advocates on just about everything.)

The Chairman also took a familiar line more often taken in national affairs: that if I disagreed with him and with Mr. Pearce, I must not really be New Mexican. (Perhaps there’ll be a Legislative Committee on un-New Mexican Affairs one day.)

In fact, a new survey suggests Mr. Pearce is the one who’s out of step with New Mexico. A 2012 survey by The Colorado College found that a majority of New Mexicans disagree that "We need to allow companies greater access to our natural resources, by ensuring them the ability to drill, mine, harvest timber, and extract other resources from our public lands" and disagree that "One of the best ways to create jobs is to cut back environmental regulations that are weighing down New Mexico businesses."

The survey also asked, "As part of efforts to improve the state economy and generate jobs as quickly as possible, some people have proposed reducing protections for land, air and water that apply to major industries. Would you prefer that New Mexico reduce protections for land, air and water that apply to major industries OR that New Mexico maintain protections for land, air, and water that apply to major industries." New Mexicans answered "maintain protections" by 79% to 17% – and another 1%, unprompted, said "Increase protections."

I’m a New Mexican and I love New Mexico. That’s why I’d like to see it represented in Congress by the best possible people.

[The above column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 18 March.]

The Colorado College western states survey to which I refer, and which coincidentally was the subject of another op-ed column in this morning's Sun-News, is worth a look. 

Meanwhile, apologies to folks who follow this blog expecting more photographs and odd observations of nature and the like.  There have been extenuating circumstances.  In any case, it's spring -- as the winds are loudly testifying at the moment -- and the blog will start being more varied again. 

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